It is known, in Chicago and especially in Cleveland, as "The Shot." It was replayed on television hundreds of times, to the agony of Cleveland fans and the ecstasy of Bulls supporters. It was only one basket, yet it played an integral role in the fortunes of not one but two NBA franchises.
A glimpse of one of MJ's defining moments.
The Cleveland Cavaliers were one of the NBA's best young teams in the late 1980s, with a nucleus that included Brad Daugherty, Mark Price, Ron Harper, Larry Nance and John "Hot Rod" Williams. Under the guidance of coach Lenny Wilkens, the Cavs improved by 15 games to a franchise-best 57-25 record in the 1988-89 regular season and appeared poised to challenge for the NBA title.
In their way stood the Chicago Bulls, a young team led by Michael Jordan that was just beginning to mesh into the unit that would dominate the NBA in the 1990s. The Bulls had finished fifth in the powerful Central Division with a 47-35 record, but they had beaten the Cavs in a five-game playoff series the year before and were matched up against Cleveland once again.
Chicago stole the home-court advantage in the best-of-5 series by winning the opener 95-88 and could have closed out the set at home, but Cleveland rallied for a 108-105 overtime win in Game 4 to set up a deciding game in Cleveland.
It came down to the closing seconds, and as he would so many times in his career, Jordan had the ball with the game on the line. Starting from the right side, Jordan dribbled toward the key and rose up for a jumper from inside the circle. Craig Ehlo, one of Cleveland's top defenders, leaped out to block the shot, but Jordan seemed to hang in the air until Ehlo was out of his way, then released his shot. As the ball nestled through the net, Jordan pumped his fists in jubilation, completing a video highlight for the ages.
Two years later, the Bulls won the first of five NBA titles they would win from 1991 through 1997. Cleveland, meanwhile, has yet to reach the NBA Finals.